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Where nostalgia leads to ice cream and apples and childhood memories

by John on October 5th, 2015

There is something about this time of the year, and I just love it. The air is getting colder, but it’s not yet “cold.” Many a morning, I’ll find myself wanting to lie in the bed, blankets curled tight around me, living in that area between “asleep” and “dozing,” as a cool, crisp breeze comes from an open window1.

This past weekend, we went to the Bloomsburg Fair, and had a wonderful time. As we were leaving, Duffy noted a stand from the Creamery — the ice cream shop from her alma mater, Penn State. We stopped & she got a little ice cream2. There was a look of pure elation when my wife took her first bite. I asked her “that good?”

She responded that, if she’s being honest, the ice cream from a local-to-us ice cream shop is, likely, better. But there’s something “fundamentally good” in the nostalgia from something resoundingly familiar.

Then, the next day, I felt the same, when winesap apples were on sale at my local grocery store.

It’s really a shame that the moments that are best etched in our minds require a level of tragedy. I can tell you any number of details about the day of the Challenger disaster, the Columbia disaster, 9/11 . . . the list goes on. But, the details of my high school or college graduation? My twenty-first birthday? They’re just “happy, nondescript” memories3.

My parents are divorced . . . but, unlike most who might share the “divorced parent” saga, my parents divorced when I was 22 years old. My formative years were well behind me . . . yeah, there were times that sucked, thinking back as a family, but there were great times, too.

As the weather turned from summer to fall, every year, we’d head out apple picking. And every year, we’d pick winesap apples, specifically to be baked into pies (my dad never baked much, but he had a knack for making wonderful apple pies).

I remember, going apple picking and gorging on apples as we went about (I’m still not sure of the legality of this, but, speaking to operators of farms, at present, it appears that it’s anticipated that people pick & eat apples as they go about, that such actions are built into the cost they’re charging, so as long as you’re actually purchasing apples, all is good). I remember countless jokes of “they should weigh us beforehand and afterward.”

The details of these days reside, not etched like those of a tragedy, but exist more like a watercolor — each stroke, simply, implying what’s there. The edges are fuzzy, the details are hazy — but the overall feel is unmistakable. Not every day was good, but the good times did exist. Thinking on this makes me sad for those who look at their childhoods where there were always two families. Or, if they remember “a single family,” the good times were far too few to stand out. Not every day in my own childhood was good — but the good memories are certainly present.

So, back to food, because, well, food is my favorite. We’re at the time of year where apples reign – and honeycrisp apples have become “all the rage” these days; if I’m honest with myself, I find the taste of a honeycrisp superior to any other kind of apple (which is interesting, in that it appears that honeycrisps were almost entirely tossed as a “hybrid experimentation that didn’t yield anything useful”). But, as I enjoy a winesap — there’s the crisp, sweet yet tart taste, and there are the floods of memories of happy, crisp afternoons as a happy family. A silly apple brings me back to happy youthful memories.

And now I need to figure out when to head apple picking with my brood.

1 I should note that this is an actual impossibility, if Benji figures out that you’re awake, he’ll pester you until you’re taking him for a walk . . . though walks in this current weather ain’t so bad, either.
2 I’m still focusing on “minimal refined flour/sugar” when it comes to my diet, and, while it was a “fun, family weekend” where I’d have loosened the reins, just a bit, I chose to spend my “throw away calories” on wine & beer.
3 Fine, the day my son was born — I can recall that with equal clarity, but, as it’s a fact that goes against my argument, I’m choosing to ignore it.
  1. Laura permalink

    I remember that wine sap apples were my father’s favorite. I pretended to like them, but actually prefer a sweeter apple. We don’t get the wine sap variety around here, but do get plenty of honey crisps. Yummie. Time to get some apples!

    • I love being able to appreciate the season by the fruits available . . . apples, this year, have been exceptional — I don’t know it it’s just better planting practices by the farmers or that I’ve changed my diet to eliminate most sugar, so my body seems to savor the sweetness from fruit all the more, but I’m enjoying this fall immensely 🙂

  2. I’m old enough to remember when Red Delicious apples had a flavor. Or at the time I was young enough not to realize they didn’t. Now my favorite is the Pink Lady. But one of the things I really love about apple-picking is the chance to get apples I don’t find in the stores. The other thing I love is that apple-picking is fun. This October is too full, but I want to take Baguette next year.

    On a sadder note, I’m . . . well, not glad, but appreciative . . . to see someone else mention the Columbia. I remember that day, and I think it gets overlooked.

    • Yeah, the Columbia disaster does get overlooked — at least among my peers, there was the HUGE build-up to the Challenger, teacher on board, everybody watching. Columbia was just as awful, but there wasn’t the lead up, at least, not to me . . . but it doesn’t make it any less tragic in my memory.

      And it’s funny, CJ prefers red delicious apples. Truly. I’ve gone through a good number of tests with him, and he always picks Red Delicious as his favorite. Which perplexes me. I know there is something about kids taste buds being far more sensitive than adult taste buds — I wonder if there is some kind of overload when it comes to apples & my son.

  3. My husband was at the Penn State Creamery recently for a tour. He brought back a nice coffee table book and recounted the flavors tasted. Can’t wait to try it one day.

    Apple season is upon us. I too have fond memories of hitting up the orchards for Macs and Cortlands (which are ready now). I can’t wait to make pies and crisps- such a cozy fall treat. 🙂

    • Loved the post on apple butter!

      And, should you find yourself nearing the creamery at State College . . . well, there’s this guy who would make the drive out to meet you 🙂

  4. I have a fondness for Northwestern Greening apples. My parents have an apple tree of that variety that is who-knows-how-many-decades-old growing at the end of their driveway. The last ten years have found the center of it rotted out, a large branch broken off and for the most part its production has fallen. My Mom has put on it the tree “face” to greet visitors pulling into the driveway and it has a decidedly “creepy tree” look about it. But, that tree has character and is part of the family, as it were.

    About ten years ago, Mr. Muse and I purchased a new Northwestern Greening sapling, a dwarf variety this time, that was planted in the backyard. Everyone celebrated the first year it bore fruit, three, very large, crisp apples which were relished. The next year, there was more fruit than we could all eat, humans and horses alike, savoring their sweet-tart crispness.

    Now? I need one for my own yard. I miss having an apple tree at hand, and the large, greenish-yellow apples that sometimes have a blush with their crispy, sweet-tart flavor are a nostalgic favorite.

    Love this post, John.

    • I have hopes for dwarf peach, cherry, and apple trees in the yard (as well as grape vines) . . . but said plans require me to go out & do something to clear spaces in my yard to allow these to become reality. One year…

  5. This post is lovely.
    I wasn’t expecting you to be so introspective and thoughtful but I should have suspected it from the title.

    The Challenger Disaster. Ice cream. Apple-picking. You threaded them together in a way that just makes sense.

    And this line carries all the truth: there’s something “fundamentally good” in the nostalgia from something resoundingly familiar.

    Well done.
    (And now, to gorge on a honey crisp.)

    • Not that you aren’t introspective and thoughtful; I just wasn’t having my own deep thoughts when I clicked here today.

      Now I am

      • Coming from someone whose writing always leads me to deep & introspective thoughts, well, that’s quite the compliment.

    • Well thank you 🙂

      And this fall has been one apple gorging followed by the next. Yum 🙂

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